26 August 2010

Zimbabwe: Country to Become Third Largest Platinum Producer

Harare — Expansion projects at Mimosa and Ngezi as well as the planned opening of the Unki platinum mine could make Zimbabwe the world's third largest platinum producer, according to a report by platinum analysts Johnson Matthey's (JM).

In its latest report on the world's platinum industry, JM said recent expansion in the mining of platinum group metals in Zimbabwe had finally made the country a significant producer.

"Recent expansions at Mimosa and Ngezi have increased production at both sites. Outline plans have also been developed for Phase 2 expansion at Ngezi - adding two million tonnes of ore to output, roughly equivalent to 200 000 oz per annum of platinum group metals - and for Wedza Phase 6 at Mimosa. If these occur, together with production from Unki, this would make Zimbabwe the world's third largest producer of platinum as it finally starts to fulfil its potential," said JM.

Mimosa is jointly owned by Impala Platinum (Implats) and Aquarius Platinum who acquired the asset in 2001 and 2002 respectively and have since increased production from this shallow deposit.

Pilot production started at Mimosa on the Wedza Complex in the mid-1990s under Union Carbide and then Zimasco who later sold its interest to the two platinum miners.

Ngezi, which began operations in 2001 as an open pit mine that was eventually closed in late 2008, is owned by Implats. Underground tonnage has now replaced open pit tonnage and platinum production rose to 130 000 oz last year with the completion of Portal 1 and should reach 180 000 oz by mid next year.

Unki is a shallow deposit on the Selukwe Complex on the Great Dyke and is owned jointly by Anglo Platinum and Anglo American. "Platinum was discovered on Zimbabwe's Great Dyke in the early 20th century, at around the same time that the metal was found in the Bushveld Complex.

"However, comparatively little development has occurred in Zimbabwe in the platinum mining sector since that date," said JM. JM said interest in mining this 550 km long, 12 km wide geological structure has increased in recent years.

"The four major platinum deposits on the Great Dyke (Hartley, Musengezi, Ngezi and Selukwe) are located in a 3-4 m thick mineralised seam, which lies at shallow depths, typically of 250m or less. The reef is platinum-rich but also has high base metal content, leading to high by product credits and making mining potentially very economically attractive," it said in its report.

The Hartley mine, which opened in the mid-1990s was the first serious attempt at platinum mining in Zimbabwe. Although it no longer produces any ore, active mines at Mimosa and Ngezi have begun operations.

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